Liberty, Liberty, Liberty: On Christmas, can BYU free itself from ‘discouraging’ loss?
BYU faces Liberty (4:30 p.m., MST, ESPN2) at the Stan Sheriff Center on Christmas Day. Vanderbilt and Stanford meet at 7:30 p.m. for the Diamond Head Classic championship.
Months ago, BYU was projected as the team to beat in the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu.
But after the Cougars’ 69-67 setback Thursday night to Vanderbilt, which coach Mark Pope called “a really discouraging loss,” they can finish no better than third place in the eight-team holiday tournament.
BYU faces Liberty (4:30 p.m., MST, ESPN2) at the Stan Sheriff Center on Christmas Day.
Vanderbilt and Stanford meet at 7:30 p.m. for the Diamond Head Classic championship.
Against the Commodores, the Cougars (10-3) coughed up 19 turnovers, leading to 18 Vanderbilt points.
“We’re having a really tough time the last two games protecting the ball. When you give the opponent 20 extra possessions, it’s hard to win,” Pope said.
“We need to make some strides there and do better. We will. This season is an opportunity to get better, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
BYU outshot (41%-39%) and outrebounded (43-31) Vanderbilt, but it was simply too sloppy with the ball.
The Cougars also allowed Commodore guard Scotty Pippen, Jr., the son of NBA Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen, to score a game-high 23 points — with 16 of those coming over the final seven-plus minutes of the contest.
On Saturday, the Cougars will have to contend with Liberty guard Darius McGhee, who exploded for 41 points in a 79-76 loss to Stanford Thursday.
He made 13 of 28 field goals, including 7 of 15 from 3-point range, and was also a perfect 8 of 8 from the free throw line.
McGhee averages 21.4 points per game this season.
The Flames (8-5) beat Northern Iowa 76-74 in the first round of the Diamond Head Classic.
BYU has never dropped back-to-back regular season games under Pope, but this will be another tough challenge for a Cougar team that seems to be trying to find its identity.
BYU opens West Coast Conference play in one week when it visits Portland on New Year’s Day.
Before that, BYU hosts Westminster on Dec. 29.
“We can grow into a really good team,” Pope said, “and we’re determined to do that.”
Diamond Head Classic
BYU (10-3) vs. Liberty (8-5)
Thursday, 8 p.m. MST
Stan Sheriff Center
Radio: BYU Radio/1160 AM